RVing in Baja, Mexico - Part 2: You’ve Crossed the Border, Now What?
RV camping, travel tips, and top destinations in Baja to explore.

By: Peter & Kathy Holcombe

There are so many different experiences awaiting you at every turn in Baja. Here are some tools to help you as you begin to make your way south!

Where to Go Once You Cross the Border

Prior to our first trip to Baja, everyone that we spoke with (who had personally traveled to Baja recently), and the State Department website, recommend that travelers leave the border areas as soon as possible, as this is where most of the crime occurs. The consensus seems to be that you should keep moving south until you reach either San Filipe on the east coast or Ensenada on the west coast. After that, the entire peninsula is reasonably safe and ripe for exploration. (You can read about our first time driving across the Mexican Border here.) 

One of our favorite things in Baja is wild and free camping on a beach with no one else in sight.

Based on this information, in 2023 we crossed at Tecate (completely avoiding the more dangerous areas of Tijuana and Mexicali) and continued south all the way to San Felipe before we stopped for the night. On our return to the States, we spent our last night south of Ensenada and then made the push across the border (again at Tecate) in a single day. 

This is a free spot just outside of San Felipe where we spent our first night in Baja after crossing the border. The next morning, we went into town and filled up with gas and groceries so that we were stocked for a few days of backcountry exploration.

This year, we were more familiar, and therefore more comfortable, with the risks and drove just over 50 miles south of Mexicali to the charming hot springs in Cañon de Guadalupe. It wasn’t that the risk had changed, but more that our comfort level and understanding of the actual danger had changed. Regardless of where you set your sights for that first night in Baja, pay attention to your surroundings, and enjoy every single minute of all the magic that awaits as you make your way south.

Cañon de Guadelupe is a true oasis in the desert, complete with personal hot spring pools at each site. The road is winding and rough to get there (best for small vehicles with 4x4), but it is worth the drive.

RV Camping in Baja, Mexico

There are so many wonderful opportunities for camping across Baja, and we have tried a multitude of options. We rely heavily on the iOverlander app to help us locate campsites, and thoroughly read all the recent reviews for each location to ensure that it was a legitimate place to camp, to determine the going rate per night, and see what experiences others were having in that location. 

On average, we spent between $5-20 per night in Baja depending on the amenities provided. A $5 per night campsite might just be a place to park on the beach. In these sites, there was either a person who manned a rope blocking the road to the beach camping, or a person would drive by in the morning or evening and collect a fee. Sometimes the fees were negotiable (as noted on iOverlander) and sometimes they were fixed. There might be a pit toilet near the camping, but often you were expected to pack out everything you brought in, including human waste. 

A $10 per night campsite would often have some sort of toilet system, and sometimes trash service (but not always). A $15-20 per night site will often have electricity available, flush toilets, showers, and trash service. These are more like a traditional campground that you would find in the States. 

Whether you are looking for privacy and solitude or a hopping social scene, there is something for everyone in Baja.

My favorite features of the campsites in Baja (in all of the price groups) were the vendors that provided services to some of the more popular camping areas. Someone would swing by offering fresh drinking water or sewer disposal services. Another person would walk by each morning with a cart offering fresh baked banana bread, tamales, or empanadas. In the afternoon, fishermen would walk through the sites offering fresh fish, scallops, shrimp, and lobster. 

As time passed, we would head to our campsites with fresh produce and tortillas and live off of whatever the vendors brought by each day. (Of course, we had enough food to get by on if there weren’t vendors in a particular area, but we loved eating fresh seafood and empanadas whenever possible.) 

Day-to-Day Logistics when RVing in Baja

We’ve shared some of the health and safety gear we added to our Winnebago Revel before the trip in this article. And we’ve also explained what you need to know about visas and crossing the border in Part 1 of this guide. Here we’ll share some of the more general daily need-to-know information for traveling around Baja in an RV.

The scenery in Baja is extraordinary and sometimes surreal. It keeps us wanting to return year after year.

Finding Purified Water 

On our first visit to Baja, clean drinking water was one of our biggest concerns. But that was quickly laid to rest as we discovered that almost every small village had a purificada, or purified water station. These provide reverse-osmosis drinking water by the gallon. Sometimes, we were able to maneuver our Sprinter van close enough that we could connect our hose directly to the spigot inside the building. There were a few instances where we could get close enough, but they did not have the proper adapter to fit our U.S. hose. 

We did carry a “water bandit” connector that helped on some occasions, although in at least one instance the pressure was too great for the water bandit to stay attached to the spigot. When this occurred, we put a deposit on a garrafón (a water bottle that holds 20 liters) and siphoned from that directly into our RV tank.

It took roughly three garrafóns to fill our tank. Then we returned the bottle, collected our deposit, and were on our way. Easy peasy! The cost to fill our 24-gallon RV tank ranged from $5-12, and honestly, I think it was easier in Mexico to find clean drinking water than it is in the States. 

This is a typical purificada where you can purchase clean drinking water. It is really helpful to have a LONG hose (or two) to run from your vehicle into the building.

Buying Groceries 

Each small village has some sort of food available. However, depending on your flexibility with embracing local cuisine, you may want to focus your shopping in the larger towns. It was easy to find rice, beans, tomatoes, onions, avocados, cheese, and meat at the markets in the smaller villages. And each town often had a tortillaria that offered fresh baked tortillas for around $1 (the tortillas there are preservative free and will only last a couple of days before turning moldy). 

If you are looking for fresh seafood, the local pescaderia often has the freshest selection and best prices. As for fresh produce, the selection was much more limited than what we are used to in the States - and it was difficult to find things like cauliflower, broccoli, greens, and carrots outside of the larger cities. Keep your eyes peeled for roadside stands selling produce straight out of the fields. When we were there, there were fresh oranges and honey everywhere, as well as strawberries that were out of this world.

One afternoon, a lone truck approached our camp and pulled a duffle bag out of the bed of the pickup. We were apprehensive about what was in the bag, but cautiously took a peek. It was full of lobsters that he was selling for $4 each.

Finding Fuel 

For the most part, fuel (both unleaded and diesel) was readily available throughout Baja. It was slightly less expensive than fuel in California, but higher than in most of the USA. In January of 2024, we averaged approximately $5.50/gallon for ultra-low-sulfur diesel. 

We have also added a 24-gallon auxiliary fuel tank to our Sprinter van which gave us great peace of mind as we traversed extremely remote areas of Baja. We rarely pass up an opportunity to fill our tanks, and never actually needed our reserve fuel. 

Of particular importance ... our Sprinter van has a constriction in the fuel port that does not allow us to use the large, fast-fill diesel nozzles. This was a major problem on our first trip to Baja as every single diesel pump we used had the larger semi-truck-sized nozzles. Before we headed south this year, we replaced our filler neck with one that accepts the fast-fill nozzles.

Highlights of RVing in Baja

Logistics aside, the most important question to be answered is “Where should we go and what should we do in Baja?” I can’t tell you the best route through Baja or all the wonderful things to see and do because we are still figuring that out for ourselves. And besides that, the exploration of the unknown is one of the best parts of overland travel. But what I can offer are a couple of really incredible experiences that should not be missed. 

Amazing Beaches

The first are the pristine beaches, and the list of which one is best is varied and long. We personally prefer beaches with less people, so we typically explore rough dirt roads that lead to the coast in search of solitude. But if you prefer the company of others, the Bahía de los Ángeles and the Bahía Concepción are known snowbird havens and can accommodate large Class A RVs. 

Returning from the Bahía de los Ángeles, we decided to take a detour to visit the historic Mission San Fransisco Borja. The road had been washed out by a hurricane and was a bit more technical than we expected. Regardless it was a wonderful side-trip. (You can watch our YouTube episode about our off-road adventure to the mission here.)

Pueblos Mágicos

Another must see are the Pueblos Mágicos. These are towns designated by Mexico’s Secretariat of Tourism as “unique and historically significant, offering visitors a magical experience.” As of August 2023, there are 177 Pueblos Mágicos and one is located in Baja California - Tecate, and three are located in Baja California Sur: Todos Santos, Loreto, and Santa Rosalía.

Even though it is not an official Pueblos Mágico, we think San Ignacio in Baja California Sur is pretty magical as well. These towns are rich in history and culture and are a wonderful place to spend time exploring. 

We stayed in the Romanita RV Park in Loreto and spent a couple of days exploring the magical town. Asadero Super Burro (for dinner) and Dory Luz (for breakfast) were our favorite restaurants.

Whale Watching

By far the best thing that we have experienced in Baja are the whales. Each year, thousands of gray whales migrate south from Alaska, and congregate in the lagoons on the west coast of Baja. They have their babies in early January, and for the next three months the lagoons serve as a nursery for the growing calves as they prepare for the northern migration. 

There are two primary locations where they congregate, that provide some of the best whale watching on the planet: Ojo de Libra outside of Guerrero Negro, and Laguna San Igancio. Both locations offer tours in small pangas out to the nurseries where you can see the young calves and their mothers. The cost is about US$55 for a two-to-three-hour tour, and the best time to see the whales are January through March. 

The young whales are inquisitive and playful and flock toward the pangas to check out the humans. When we went, the calves would sidle up to the boat and roll on their sides so that they could peer aboard with their giant, gentle eyes. They would let us scratch their noses, and whenever someone would squeal, they would blast air out of their blowholes and spray us all.

The more joyful we were, the more playful the young whales. It was truly an extraordinary interaction between humans and whales and one not to be missed. Here is a video of our experience with the whales as Ojo de Libre.

One of our favorite things about Baja is the relaxed pace and spending time with friends.

Use these suggestions as a starting point and then point your nose south with an open mind and an open heart and discover the beauty and magic of Baja for yourself. You can learn more about our travels in Baja and beyond through our weekly YouTube videos.

Until next time … we hope to see you somewhere over the horizon!

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